For many years, the Ljubljana Christmas Market stands have become an institution for Ljubljana every holiday season. Their countless food and drink stalls offer some of the most sumptuous gastronomic delights. Among their best sellers are Balkan foods that you’ll only find in this region of Europe.
Known as the “Merry December in Ljubljana Old Town”, the Balkan food and drinks you can access in the Festive Fair are unbelievable. You will find some of the best prošut, sausages, potica, gibanica, krvavice, and more. There are also different types of beverages you can find, from mulled wine, Slovenian orange wine, and even schnapps.
Balkan food at the Ljubljana Christmas Market Stands offers some of the best that the region can make. Here’s everything you can find in Ljubljana’s Festive Fair.
What is Balkan Food?
If you’re a visitor from outside the region, you likely don’t know what Balkan food is. Balkan food or Balkan cuisines are dishes and drinks that come from Southeast Europe. These include Slavic countries like Slovenia and Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and Albania.
Balkan cuisine combines several European and Russian influences. As a generalization, most Balkan cuisine involves meat-heavy dishes. Since many of these countries are in cold-weather climates, meat was crucial to keep the body running.
Balkan cuisine also relies heavily on nuts and grain, especially millet, wheat, and buckwheat. In direct contrast to Asia, the Balkan diet is heavy on bread and pastries, usually sold together with barbecue and grilled meats.
Balkan food still possesses its distinctly Slavic roots. Even then, the food and drink already have a heavy influence from Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian territories. These translate into the region’s love for pastries, condiments, and even coffee in general.
While some “Balkan” food and drink like coffee are not exclusive to the region, many countries are proud of their traditions. The Ljubljana Christmas Market stands have
Starting off the list is the potica or the stuffed sweet bread. Coming from Slovenia, potica is delicious, tasty, and you can eat it any time of the year. This pastry is the most famous dish in Slovenia and is easily available in the Ljubljana Christmas Market.
Known as povitica in Croatia and orechovník in the Slovak Republic, a delightful nut roll is baked in a Potičnik. A potičnik is a traditional baking pan similar in style to a tube pan or bundt pan.
As it’s made, the pastry will have several types of fillings, depending on the baker. The most common filling is walnut, but it can vary between quark, hazelnut, poppy seed, bacon, cracknels, and even tarragon.
Slovenian potica is festive and is most common on the biggest occasions for the city. Once you visit the Christmas market stalls, you’ll find potica at almost any store at the Festive Fair.
Čevapčiči (Skinless Grilled Meat)
Another delicious meat dish you’ll find in the Ljubljana Christmas markets is the čevapčiči. The čevapčiči is reminiscent of Turkish kebab, with spiced ground meat grilled in skewers or on hot plates. If you find this in the stands, be sure to give it a taste.
Čevapčiči is considered a national dish of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and for a reason. It’s delicious to eat whatever any time of the day, it’s easy to make, and quite filling. It is a common grilled fare in festivals, and it’s super popular among its other Balkan neighbors.
Čevapčiči can be eaten as is or with a flatbread or pastry, with or without accompaniment. Some eat it for breakfast, especially with some type of potato dishes like mash or fries. In the stands, expect to see it grilling with all its majesty. The smell can be quite addicting if you love grilled meats.
In Slovenia, it’s a staple in Ljubljana’s Christmas markets and works deliciously with rakia or a beer. In other countries, it’s a crucial part of many festivals, including the Leskovac Roštiljijada in Serbia. If you’re feeling peckish, snack on these and party away.
Pršut (Prosciutto/Dried Ham)
Meats are a crucial part of the Slovenian diet and for a reason. Much of the Balkans are areas with cold climates and harsh winters. With that said, among the most prized meat dishes in the region is the Pršut.
Pršut, well known as the prosciutto, is a type of salted dried ham sliced thinly. People commonly eat it as an antipasto and as part of a meal. Usually, Balkans eat it for breakfast with eggs, but some sellers are happy to sell it in the Christmas stalls.
In Ljubljana, you can eat Pršut as it is within fruits, wine, cheese, or on a cheeseboard. You can buy entire slabs, haunches, or cold-packed slices. In some stalls, you can get it as a complete meal with some pastries.
The typical Pršut you’ll find is the prized Karst Pršut, which is a delicious product of Slovenia. You can also find Dalmatinski pršut, the prized ham of Croatia.
Kranjska Klobasa (Carniolan sausage)
If pršut is not in your alley, but you still want your meat, sausages are the right answer. You can eat sausages at any time, anywhere, and eat it with almost anything. The Balkans have some of the best choices when it comes to sausages.
For starters, the Kranjska klobasa or Carniolan sausage is a global product that many people love. Kranjska klobasa is known in the United States as the kielbasa, the recipe coopted by the Polish and brought with them in their immigration.
The klobasa is famous in several Western countries for its juicy taste. Australians call it the Kransky, introduced in the country around the ‘40s to ‘50s by Slovenian immigrants.
Kranjska klobasa only uses high-quality pork, hard bacon, and spices. If you visit the Christmas Market stalls in Ljubljana, you’ll see a few sellers who offer different ways to eat it.
Some sellers will do it American style – in a hotdog bun with sauerkraut and mustard. Others will sell it as is, and you can eat it with a nice pint of beer on the side and ajvar for a delicious dip.
If you’re looking for good grub, one of the Balkan dishes you can expect at the Festive Fair is the burek. Originally from Turkey, the burek has become a favorite street food for many Balkan nations, including Slovenia, Macedonia, and other Slavic countries.
Burek is baked or fried pastries made of phyllo, usually with a type of filling. Depending on where you are in the Balkans, you will find either meat, cheese, or vegetables as a filling. It’s a favorite fast food in Slovenia and around the region.
When you find it in the Festive Fair, you’ll likely find one that has meat or cheese by default. It’s delicious, going second only from potica when it comes to preferred stall pastry. If you’re a vegan, some stalls offer burek with spinach filling too.
In most cases, you’ll find burek sold with other things. Some sell it with sausages and sauerkraut. If you’re lucky, you can even eat it with milk on the side. It’s even an entire subculture in Slovenia, so expect greasy deliciousness with every bite.
A visit to Ljubljana’s Christmas Market stalls is not complete without some alcohol. Under a cold, dark winter’s night, it’s almost customary to buy your food with something alcoholic. It will help warm your body and keep you from feeling the chill.
Much like anything, it’s crucial to drink to taste, never to intoxicate. Even then, it’s hard to resist a good klobasa without having a good stiff drink to help wash it down. Depending on your taste, you’ll be glad to know that Ljubljana has a few Balkan options for you.
Like any proper fair, Slovenian artisanal beer is available, together with mulled wine. Mulled wine is great if you’re looking for something simple, but it’s not Balkan enough. You want something better like schnapps.
Schnapps is the Slovenian national pastime, delicious to drink every night. Much like vodka to the Russians, you’re not local if you don’t have a taste for schnapps. Much like beer, there are several varieties you’ll find made from artisan shops.
Viljamoka is a favorite among Slovenians, made from William’s pear. Austria likes to use hazelnuts and apples to flavor their schnapps. Slivovica is made from plums and is sweet, fiery, and quite potent. You can even spike your schnapps with other fruit liqueurs.
Slovenian Orange Wine
Slovenian orange wine is also a treat that you can find only in Slovenia. Contrary to its name, this wine is neither made from oranges nor has oranges in it. The wines are 100% grape and made from a unique process.
Slovenian orange wine is delicious, robust, and bold, with a nutty flavor with jackfruit and hazelnut notes. You’ll see a lot of it at the Festive Fair, so you’ll be more than glad to enjoy this delicious wine.
Balkan food at the Ljubljana Christmas Market Stands offers more than a few ways to fill your belly. It’s a way to introduce the Balkan culture to the world and help tourists appreciate it better.
There are so many types of food that you can find in Ljbuljana’s Christmas Market. They have something for everyone, from mulled wine, candies, and much more. If you find yourself in Slovenia, why not give these delicious cuisines a try?
Slovenia has a variety of food and drink for the average foodie. There are so many things to do! Take a look at the things you should try with our list of activities you can enjoy in Slovenia.